Orphanages, institutions and child migrants

Download the PDF version of Orphanages, institutions and child migrants: family history info guide   (PDF 43.8 KB)

Orphanage and home records

Access to most records relating to orphanages and children’s homes is restricted. Records are generally held by the government or by the organisation which ran the institution. Early records of government run institutions are held in the relevant State archival repository. The State Library of Queensland holds a number of published resources that can assist family historians to locate the appropriate records and there are a number of websites that are also helpful.


Find and Connect is a first port of call. It provides up-to-date lists of support groups and services available to Forgotten Australians and former child migrants. There is an email enquiry form and practical help and advice about accessing records. This is an Australia-wide site but records are organized on a state basis.


The locations of records of Queensland institutions are listed in:

Missing Pieces: information to assist former residents of children’s institutions to access records (Available at the Family History desk on Level 3)
It lists locations of records for government and non-government Queensland institutions. It provides brief details of the establishment and operation of each institution, the types and date ranges of records available, and contact details for access to the records. Find and Connect is more up-to-date.

Index to registrar of Townsville Orphanage 1878-1943 [microfiche] (MFC 929.39436 1994)

See also

Queensland State Archives Brief Guide - Orphanages and Children's Homes
This guide includes links to catalogue records that provide access to digitised admissions registers for a number of the institutions.

For other States, check with the relevant State Archives or State Record Office.

New South Wales

State Records NSW - Child Care and Protection Guide

The index, Child Care and Protection, includes:

  • Mittagong Farm Home for Boys, 1907-21
  • Randwick Asylum for destitute Children, 1852-1915
  • Orphans schools, 1817-86
  • Industrial Schools records 1867-1942

Sydney Benevolent Asylum – Index to admissions and discharges 1857-1900

SLQ holds the following indexes:


Public Record Office Victoria
PROVguide - Adoption and wardship (1864-1961)
Records held include Ward of State registers, 1864-1965 and Child migration files, 1947-1971.  Access to many of the files is restricted.

SLQ holds:


Tasmanian Archive and Heritage Office
Community Welfare Organisations in Tasmania guide
Records include Queens Orphan School and personal files of children who lived at the Northern Tasmanian Home for Boys (Glenara) 1921-1983. Access to files less than 75 years is restricted.

SLQ holds the following indexes:

Western Australia

State Records of Western Australia
Records include files relating to Maltese child migrants between 1952 and 1963 (Item 1952/1358). Access to the files is restricted. For child migration schemes check the Passenger Lists and Immigration Records guide

See also Signposts: A guide for children and young people in care in WA from 1920

South Australia

State Records of South Australia

Far from a low gutter girl: the forgotten world of state wards: South Australia 1887-1940 / Margaret Barbalet (G 362.73 1983).  Case studies of state wards.

Child migrants

From 1900-1960 state governments and charitable institutions operated a number of schemes to bring child migrants to Australia. Many of the children were orphans but large numbers were illegitimate and had at least one parent living. The Federal Government provided support for these schemes but most records that name individual migrants are located in State government archives or in the archives of the relevant charitable institutions.

National Archives of Australia Fact sheet on child migration (No. 124) provides background information and a list of the personal documents on child migrants held in the NAA collection.

The United Kingdom.
The Child Migrants Trust provides professional help to former UK child migrants and their families.

PHIND The Personal History INDex is a confidential index to personal, migration, residence, and other records of individual child migrants sent from Britain and Malta to Catholic Homes in Western Australia between 1938 and 1965. Only former child migrants or their representatives may access the index.

Child Migrants: Accessing records held by Commonwealth and State Archives / Council of Australasian Archives and Records Auhtorities

SLQ holds the following books published about British child migrants include:

Check One Search online catalogue for further titles.

Irish orphans

Information about Irish orphans shipped from the workhouses to Australia during the 1840s Famine may be found in:

Download the PDF version of Orphanages, institutions and child migrants: family history info guide   (PDF 43.8 KB)

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